Onions are a true culinary workhorse, and don't get the love they deserve. Visionary chef Luke Dale-Roberts turns his attention to this flavourful staple.
Can you imagine a life without onions? Mealtimes would be monotonous, dishes dreary and every menu a minefield. So let's play homage to the humble bulb with dishes so delicious they'll make you weep.
Onions are the unsung heroes of the kitchen: virtually everything you eat in a good European restaurant will be somehow underpinned with an onion. The basis of all cream sauces and jus, soups, broths and stocks, the unassuming bulb is the ultimate flavour-builder. One of the biggest lessons I learnt as a fledgling chef was to add seasoning and herbs while sweating the onions – this, ladies and gentlemen, is the precise moment during preparation that you have the best chance of adding a big kick of flavour.
Lukes onion rings
There’ve probably only been three big breaks for the deceptively versatile bulb. The first was the invention of French onion soup, a supremely comforting winter dish made with a ton of finely sliced onions and a good beef stock, and crowned with a crisp cheese crouton.
Spring onion confit with Gorgonzola soubise
The second was the birth of the ubiquitous onion ring, without which no self-respecting burger would be caught dead.
Onion tarte tatin
And the third, and most recent, took place early in my career and had me totally floored when first I tasted it in Australia: red onion marmalade. Soft, sticky and sweet, it’s given pâtés, terrines and the ploughman’s platter a brand-new lease on life.
Onion marmalade souffle
Recently, I’ve become quite fanatical about extracting as much as I can from the onion. I have an elaborate dish on the menu at the moment that comprises a set duck-liver custard served with a “variety of onions”: a shallot-and-sherry relish, charred spring onions, confit baby onions … even powdered onions have a walk-on role. Imagine all the natural caramelised sweetness you could wish for … sublime!
Here, I’ve put together a few equally exciting dishes, each of which demonstrates the mighty prowess of this beautiful bulb.”
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